Baculoviruses induce apoptotic responses in cultured insect cells, which can severely limit viral replication. To overcome this host response baculoviruses carry anti-apoptotic genes, including members of the p35 and inhibitor of apoptosis (iap) gene families. The baculovirus Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus (HearNPV) carries two putative apoptosis suppressor genes (iap2 and iap3), which we studied in more detail. IAPs are believed to be functional in the cytoplasm, but surprisingly, when transiently expressed as EGFP fusions, IAP2 was evenly distributed throughout the cell, while IAP3 was mainly found in the nucleus. The latter became evenly distributed in both compartments in HearNPV infected cells. When iap2 was deleted, HearNPV could be propagated in Hz2e5 cells, while an iap3 deletion was lethal. The HearNPV Δ. iap3 mutant could be rescued by reinsertion of the HearNPV iap3 gene and by the well-studied anti-apoptotic genes Autographa californica (Ac)MNPV p35 or Orgyia pseudotsugata (Op)MNPV iap3. RNAi analysis showed that HearNPV induced apoptosis in Hz2e5 cells transfected with iap3 dsRNA, while silencing of iap2 did not lead to apoptosis. Finally, IAP3 was able to inhibit actinomycin-D induced apoptosis when transiently expressed in Sf21 cells. These results together indicate that HearNPV IAP3 is a functional apoptosis suppressor, while the function of IAP2 remains elusive. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.